PHAN recognizes that Pennsylvania’s diverse communities have distinct needs and issues. For example, many disadvantaged communities – communities of color, low-income families, and LGBTQ Pennsylvanians – have worse outcomes and life expectancy than the rest of the population. Of the many factors that account for health disparities, the ones that are most amenable to change are those related to health and health care, specifically the way health care is delivered and experienced across cultural barriers.
The Affordable Care Act provides valuable tools to Pennsylvania for health equity. PHAN will continue to address the needs of Pennsylvania’s diverse communities, through language access, healthy equity, immigrant access issues, LGBTQ inclusion, protections for people with disabilities, rural health, women’s health and addressing the social determinants of health.
One of the biggest goals of the Affordable Care Act — aside from making coverage accessible to those who are currently shut out of the system now — was putting a bigger focus on wellness and preventive care by giving everyone better tools to keep themselves healthy.
While the Affordable Care Act stops insurers from denying LGBTQ people coverage, it doesn’t guarantee that important services they need will be covered. Too many LGBTQ Pennsylvanians routinely face judgment, bias and discrimination when attempting to access health care — and in Pennsylvania, there are no laws in place to stop it. That needs to change.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act makes health coverage more secure by making sure no more families are denied care due to a pre-existing condition, or lose their coverage or be forced into bankruptcy when someone gets sick. The law includes many important benefits to enhance the quality of seniors’ care, while making things like prescription drugs more affordable.
In 2010, nearly 3.5 million people, or about 27 percent of the state’s 12.7 million residents, lived in Pennsylvania’s 48 rural counties (U.S. Census Bureau). Rural Pennsylvanians experience health disparities on multiple dimensions: they are less likely to have job-based health insurance, they may have to travel long distances to seek medical care, and they experience higher rates of chronic health conditions than their suburban and urban counterparts.
Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion
At PHAN, we believe in connecting people to health care, not handcuffs.
Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD, is a program that gives police officers the authority to divert individuals to a community-based, harm reduction intervention for violations that are largely driven by unmet behavioral health needs. This harm-reduction approach for responding to low-level offenses like drug possession, sales, and prostitution was developed and launched in Seattle in 2011. LEAD is an alternative to incarceration that connects individuals to a range of support services including case management, supportive housing, and mental health and substance use treatment.
Five cities have already launched LEAD programs, and nearly twenty more are in development and final implementation stages. In Seattle, LEAD participants were 58% less likely to be arrested, compared to those who went through the traditional criminal justice system (Lead National Support Bureau). The majority of LEAD participants experience mental health and/or substance use disorders.
The overarching goals of LEAD are to:
- Reorient government’s response to safety, disorder and health-related problems
- Improve public safety and public health through research based, health-oriented and harm reduction interventions
- Reduce the number of people entering the criminal justice system for low level offenses related to drug abuse, mental health, sex work and extreme poverty
- Undo racial disparities at the front end of the criminal justice system
- Sustain funding for alternative interventions by capturing and reinvesting justice system savings
- Strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the community
PHAN supports LEAD’s model of prioritizing health care over criminal prosecution. Together with local partners, PHAN is supporting the development of a LEAD program in Philadelphia. If you’d like to be involved in our Philadelphia efforts, please contact Patrick Kennan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (717) 322-5332.
To learn more about LEAD programs nationwide, click here.